You can make a difference to the hurt being caused by climate chaos and the great extinction event in your town or your city! How? Reuse, repurpose, and recycle this information. You can push your local politicians to act. It will make a difference!
This is the letter for week 186 of a weekly climate strike that went on for 4 years in front of San Francisco City Hall, beginning early March 2019. For more context, see this story. For an annotated table of contents of the topics for all the strike letters, see this story. Meanwhile…
STRIKE FOR THE PLANET
Fire, to destroy all you’ve done1
Reaction Guidelines for Fire
This is a resource for fire. The goal is to have responses on the shelf you can draw on when it’s too late to avoid or prepare for disaster.
1989 made San Francisco get serious about fire
We’re not in terrible shape if everything is still the way it was when SF made those post-earthquake plans. We have decent fire station coverage for most of the city, the water supplies for fighting fires are in line with 1990’s assumptions about need, we have close to the number of personnel specified in city plans and a strong community response system, and most of the equipment needed is mostly in working order — on paper it all looks decent.
The theme of this strike, though, is that circumstances are changing rapidly in major ways. And for years you all haven’t done and still aren’t doing enough to give SF a fighting chance at survival. Is this true of fire response as well? Let’s see.
Past fire plans are now mostly inadequate
Starting with the obvious, we’re in a megadrought. Freshwater supplies are below amounts fire response plans were built on, and water supplies will continue falling for decades.
Add in the dying snowpack. We already have snow storage issues, meaning freshwater is in short supply summers and falls, meaning we already don’t have enough available water during the months when fire danger is the greatest. And this will get worse, it won’t get better.2
Then there’s the lack of adequate water for a high pressure water system on the west side of the city. We do fine for now, but in the event of multiple fires or a large disaster, the west side could all go up and there wouldn’t be a lot firefighters could do about it.
There’s also radiation in Bayview, Hunter’s Point, and Treasure Island. Given the general piss-poor response to the existence of radioactive waste in these places, it’s unlikely there’s been any realistic planning for fighting fires that could loft radioactive isotopes into the air.
And, to top it all off, there are long-term systemic issues within the SFFD that threaten its response capacity. Racism, sexism, anti-vax and anti-government attitudes have all conspired to weaken the dept and render it as trustworthy in the public eye as the SFPD.
Fire danger has increased and will continue to do so
Remember the ash fall in SF caused by the Oakland Hills fire? Remember the roof of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris burning? Wind makes ash and embers travel, and SF has a lot of buildings built of wood. Don’t assume because we’re a city on a peninsula that we are safe from wildfires.
You know what needs to be done
It’s all been laid out for a while. We need more, better, geographically equitable fire resources. We need dependable water for fire fighting in all parts of the city. We need to clean up the toxic waste sites. We need a trustworthy fire fighting force.
So what are you doing about it?
Not much. A few new cisterns and responding to dept problems — after they make the news and lawsuits are filed — is inadequate.
Don’t underestimate the scale of likely catastrophe
Things are bad and we know they will get worse. As UN Secretary General Guterres has said, “To deal with climate change … with a business-as-usual approach is pure suicide.”
Will you only act when it’s too late?
1. Arthur Brown and “Fire”, of course. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaHEusBG20c.
2. Kelsey Fitzgerald. “Climate Change and ‘Atmospheric Thirst’ to Increase Fire Danger and Drought in Nevada and California”. DRI. 19 November 2020. https://www.drought.gov/news/climate-change-and-atmospheric-thirst-increase-fire-danger-and-drought-nevada-and-california.